Water Conservation Working

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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As I write this, snow is falling gently in the Rim country, covering all of our flaws and creating the false illusion that all is well.

Of course, we all know that when the snow melts we will be back in scorched earth drought conditions once again. As the folks at the water department like to remind us, it will have to rain for 40 days and 40 nights before we can pronounce the drought over.

But then, if I remember my Bible correctly, we will have a whole different problem to deal with. Which once again drives home the adage: Be careful what you wish for.

Let's just agree right here and now to settle for the full 40 days, but just 39 nights of rain. And, speaking of the Bible, God's directions to Noah for building the ark are in "cubits."

Isn't "Cubit" that little guy who goes around shooting arrows and making people fall in love and get married, two-thirds of which only end in divorce? See what I mean about false illusions?

Anyway, while we wait for the drought to end, I'm thankful for the Town of Payson's water conservation program. Through the program, you can get a nifty showerhead or faucet aerator for free, not to mention an array of bumper stickers, decals and even a little water drop dude with arms and legs.

If you play your cards right you might even get a free low-flow toilet built by Toto, a Japanese company named for Dorothy's dog.

Of course, the water department is also encouraging the installation of waterless urinals and these really nifty new faucets, also made by Toto, that operate when your brain doesn't.

Stick your hands under one of them and this perfectly warmed water comes on. Pull your hands away and it instantly turns off.

Stand there daydreaming and forget where you are and the faucet comes to a screeching halt in just 10 seconds, followed by a big ruler rising out of the drain and rapping you on your soggy knuckles.

Then there's the town's recently enacted water conservation ordinance -- the toughest in the West and maybe the whole U.S. Among other things, it bans the planting of new grass within town limits.

I ask you, how many other U.S. towns have the courage to take away its citizens' God-given right to a lush lawn? And now the town has gone a step further -- setting a good example by replacing grassy areas at Town Hall and elsewhere on town property with artificial turf.

A sort-of-funny thing happened recently when town water resource specialist Jeff Durbin took me out to see a patch of the newly installed artificial lawn in front of town hall.

As we were examining the turf, two elderly ladies walked by. Seeing that Durbin was wearing a Water Department shirt, one of them asked, "Is that fake?"

"Yes, ma'am," Durbin answered.

"It better be," the woman countered.

And she's not alone. The latest stats from the water department indicate that people might actually be getting the conservation message. Water usage was down 7 percent in 2003 over 2002.

"We've got our water consumption down to about 90 gallons per day per person and that's incredible," Durbin said. To truly appreciate this number, consider that the average person who lives in the Valley of 350 Golf Courses averages 200-250 gallons per day.

That's not to say we don't have our water wasters. At one point last summer, the town felt compelled to release a list of the Top 10 water users.

At the top of the list was a local realtor who said she was worried that her property value would go down if she didn't drench it in 100,000 gallons of water every month. And, heck, since she had run her own well dry, what choice did she have but to start sucking up the town's water.

Compare 100,000 gallons a month with a per person average of 2,700 and you have a mighty disparity. To put it as Abraham Lincoln might, you can count on some of the people to waste water all of the time.

But after years of spiraling water consumption, the water department is hoping the combination of higher rates and a water conservation ordinance with teeth may have helped them turn the corner. Most encouraging, people seem to be accepting the reality of the situation and doing their part.

Now we just need to watch out for Cubit, because if you get infected with love, odds of a happy ending are not good.

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